In these challenging times, for our eighth yearly award ending on April 20th, we welcome stories on all themes and subjects from the personal to the political, historical to contemporary, real or surreal. And we also invite you to send us stories with heart. They might not be light-hearted, but we love to read anything that resonates deeply and moves us. Your words count.
Our limit for the BSSA Award has always been 2200 words. A story this length takes about ten minutes to read out loud. And we think this is probably about the maximum length that people listening in a public arena can manage to concentrate on. Of course, you don’t have to write to the limit. Some of the stories that have been among the winners and short listed over the years have been much shorter than that. There is no lower limit. Although if you want to write a very short piece (300 words or less) it’s best to enter The Bath Flash Fiction Award, run by one of our team members, Jude Higgins.
To think about how to tighten your story in order to bring out its energy and subtle layers in a short space, this list of tips for writing short-short (or flash) fiction,from award winning poet,flash fiction writer, and writing tutor Mary-Jane Holmes, current judge of the Bath Flash Fiction Award, is very useful for all writers of short fiction.
Zoom in on a single event;
Begin in the middle of the action as close to the arc or climax of the story;
Decide where your focus is – event, point-of-view, character?;
Write using active voice and eliminate extraneous description;
Remember that every word counts;
Use a directive last sentence that gives narrative insight or opinion;
Make rereads necessary or at least inviting;
Close with a phrase that sends the reader back into the story;
Know when you’ve made your point.
Are you writing a short story for our next award? There are just under five weeks to go until the closing date of 15th April. Sometimes writers entering competitions think that if there is a word limit, they need to write to the absolute maximum word count permitted. For our Award, that’s 2200 words. But you don’t need to write up to this line. There is no lower limit, which means you could write in the short-short form (flash fiction) and still be considered.
Very short stories (500 words or fewer) are few among our submissions and our sister competition Bath Flash Fiction Award is the best place to submit micros (300 words and under) but stories far less than 2200 words have been selected for the BSSA short list and have been published in the winners’ anthology. For example, Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s marvellous story, ‘We Were Curious About Boys’, in the 2016 anthology is around 1500 words. You can buy our 2015, 2016 and 2017 anthologies from this website in hard copy and our 2018 anthology from our publisher’s website to see the variety in the lengths of stories. All the anthologies are available in digital versions from Kindle or Nook. Continue reading
Bath Short Story Award team member, Jude, who also organises Bath Flash Fiction Award and Flash Fiction Festivals UK, recently asked the judge of the latest Bath Flash Award, Christopher Allen, who co-edits the long-established flash fiction magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, what themes were under-represented among the hundreds of submissions they receive each week. He chose to answer this by citing themes that are over-represented. These included End-Of-The-World stories, animal metaphors and stories about the death of children. In our Award, we certainly receive a lot those themes and we’d add to that the very many stories about relationship break-ups and dementia. As Christopher says, humour is often under-represented. And we agree it’s amazing to read a story that can combine humour with poignancy. Continue reading
So much has been happening for some of the incredibly talented short story writers who have won or been shortlisted in our Awards over the past few years and are published in our yearly anthologies. Congratulations first to Caroline Ward Vine, whose short story Unravelling was short-listed in BSSA 2018 and is published in the 2018 anthology. Caroline won the Costa Short Story Award this January for her story Breathing Water and she also reached the short list of ten for the Mslexia short story competition with another story. Continue reading